NASA prepares for Mars 2020 landing

WASHINGTON – NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is on track for a landing next month that will begin in an effort to bring planet samples back to Earth.

The spacecraft launched on 30 July is scheduled to land at the Jestero Crater at 3:55 pm. 18 February. This Percever Rover, a vehicle similar to the Curiosity Rover that landed in 2012 but will come with a different suit. Of devices and other enhancements.

“Everything is going really well. The spacecraft is healthy, the sub-systems are doing nominal work and the team is making final preparations for EDL and initial surface operations, ”said Eric Ianson, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG) Is in the meeting of 27 January).

The EDL refers to entry, descent and landing, known as the “Seven Minutes of Terror” as the spacecraft enters the Martian atmosphere and slows down to enable the safe landing of the rover. This process is similar to the use of curiosity, but with some improvements.

One of those is the “Range Trigger”, Allen said during the Jan. 27 press talk that Allen Chen, Mars 2020 EDL lead. “With the range trigger, we have firmly given ourselves the ability to decide where to deploy the parachute based on where it is,” he said, enabling more precise landings.

The second terrain is relative navigation, which gives the lander “eyes and a map”. The spacecraft will use cameras to take images of the terrain as it descends and compares them to the maps on the ship. “Once she knows where she is, she can move to a safer place nearby,” he said, further increasing the accuracy of the landing.

Both techniques are necessary, Chen said, for the mission to the jzero crater. “When I look at it from a landing perspective, I see danger,” he said, such as steep rocks, sand, boulders and impact craters. “If it wasn’t for the range trigger and terrain relative navigation, we couldn’t just go to the Jezero.”

The place is enticing to scientists because it appears to be a lake in the early history of the planet, and may contain evidence of past Martian life that was left behind in carbonate deposits. “I very much appreciate the efforts of the engineering team to arrive at a dangerous landing site,” Ken Farley, Mars 2020 project scientist, said in the briefing. “This is a great landing site.”

An important part of the mission will be to collect samples from Jezero Crater. MARS 2020 is the beginning of a comprehensive MARS sample return program, where Perseverance will cache samples that will be collected on two subsequent missions launched before 2026 and returned to Earth.

That sample collection work will not begin immediately. Farley said testing the rover’s equipment will take some time, with the time also being used to conduct flight tests of Ingenuity, a small helicopter that is preventing a ride on the rover. “All are going to take several months, during which the science mission is not the primary focus,” he said. “As soon as we are done with that phase, we are ready to go.”

Project scientists are still developing strategies to determine which samples to collect, given that the rover has about three dozen sample collection tubes. Michael Mayer, head scientist of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA, said at a MEPAG meeting that 255 people attended a caching strategy workshop in mid-February last week, with a report on those plans.

Those samples collected strongly will first be brought back to Earth in 2031, launching a future Mars sample return mission on its current schedule, but Farley said it would be worth the wait.

“The specimens will return to Earth in the 2030s,” he said. “They will be analyzed for decades thereafter. This means that scientists who are currently on the Mars 2020 science team are unlikely to analyze them. Scientists analyzing these samples are in school today. They have not been born yet. “

First, however, persistence has to descend on Mars. Chen said the mission team is completing the final checkout of Lander’s EDL system, and will then perform a “cold boot” of its computer system to ensure its counterparts on the ground used for testing . “We want to make sure that we blow the vehicle up as we test it,” he said.

Later updates will refine the lander’s trajectory and give the spacecraft more accurate information about its position. Until the final week before landing, he said, “It’s about making sure we’re all primed and in the best position to succeed, almost literally, for the EDL.”

The landing activities would look slightly different from previous missions, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory having a packed mission control room that spread to ceremonies after receiving word of a successful landing. The ongoing epidemic, Chen said, means there will be fewer people in the room, and there will be dividers and other protective devices in place.

“We have to put in place those protective protocols to keep each other safe,” said Mars Wallace, 2020 deputy project manager Matt Wallace, “but assuming we have the confirmation of the landing, I don’t think COVID will give us Is going to be able to stop. Jumping up and down fists. You’re going to see a lot of happy people, no problem, once we get this thing safely to the surface. “

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